History of Telluride and the Ski Resort
Founded in 1878, Telluride’s history is as colorful as the Victorian homes lining the streets. Originally named Columbia, the fledgling town was forced to change its name in 1887 due to post office confusion with Columbia, California. From 1887 on, Telluride began to earn its place on the map as a budding mining town.
Most say Telluride is named after tellurium, a nonmetallic element associated with rich mineral deposits of gold and silver. Others say it originated from the castaway call “To-Hell-You-Ride” shouted by loved ones who knew of the town’s boisterousness. Either way, folks were attracted to the young town full of promise and opportunity.
At the height of the gold rush, nearly 5,000 people inhabited Telluride, referred to as the “town without a bellyache.” In fact, at the turn of the century, more millionaires (per capita) lived in Telluride than in New York City. The Tomboy Mine was one of the world’s greatest gold producers and contributed to more than $360 million dollars of gold pulled out of the area. The wealth of Telluride attracted the likes of Butch Cassidy, who began his illustrious bank robbing career in town. In 1889, Butch walked away from his first heist at the San Miguel Valley Bank with $24,580, never to be recovered.
Miners traveling from Tomboy Mine; site of Butch Cassidy’s first bank robbery; Main Street Telluride; Tomboy Mine. www.TellurideMuseum.org
All good things came to an end when Telluride’s boom days started moving toward bust. The final blow came when many of the area’s mines shut down in 1953. Families left town in droves and those who stayed realized Telluride’s heyday was a thing of the past. After the 1950’s mining bust, Telluride faded into a sleepy ghost town.
Snow–once despised by the miners, falls in glorious abundance on the tops of mountains and covers the ski trails. It also put Telluride back on the map. The Scandinavian sport of skiing was introduced to Telluride by Swedes and Finns, maybe for the sheer joy, but more for the quick means of transportation.
Nearly 40 years later, Joe Zoline, a wealthy entrepreneur from Beverly Hills, envisioned how snow could transform Telluride. His dream of building a ski area came to fruition in 1972 when the Telluride Ski Resort opened with five lifts and a day lodge. Six years later, two Colorado natives, Ron Allred and Jim Wells, purchased the ski area and transformed Telluride into a world class resort through mountain and lift upgrades, construction of on-mountain restaurants and trails, development of Mountain Village (in 1985), and the creation of innovative public transportation systems – the gondola and chondola. In 2004, Chuck Horning and partners purchased the resort and have since facilitated the expansion into Black Iron Bowl, Palmyra Peak and Revelation Bowl.
Today in Telluride and Mountain Village
Clapboard signs and colorful murals decorate Main Street storefronts while alpine elegance surrounds the Mountain Village shops. Items from around the world include jewelry from China, India and Japan, furniture from Mexico and Guatemala and rugs from Persia. Toys, antiques, and ice climbing gear please the young, the extreme or the sophisticated world traveler.
Food aficionados from across the country delight in the chef innovation and quality in this small resort boasting over 60 restaurants, coffee shops and bars. New approaches in American cuisine, wine cellars to rival those found on either coast and tasting menus prepared by seasoned chefs create the perfect atmosphere to match any mood.
A Modern European Alpine Village
Perched at 9,500 feet, Mountain Village is an intimate alpine enclave with luxury hotels and condominiums, stylish boutiques and innovative dining. Home to the state-of-the-art Telluride Conference Center, and world renowned hotels lumiere and Capella Telluride, this European-styled alpine village provides unsurpassable scenic ambiance with an emphasis on guest service. Ski runs meander through the town, giving many homes, condominiums, and hotels direct ski access to the slopes. All elements combine to create a modern alpine elegance to complement the rustic charm of Telluride.
Today, the population teeters around 2,500 in the town of Telluride and 1,400 year round in Mountain Village. Skis, boots and snowboards have replaced the pick, shovel and hammer. Few predicted the incredible impact snow would have on this once sleepy town as Telluride is again the desirable, energetic community of a century ago. Mention Telluride and those who know this authentic mountain gem grin in appreciation of its sheer beauty and charm.